Elizabeth Simons, PhD
Emeritus Professor
Boston University School of Medicine
Dept of Biochemistry

PhD, Yale University
MS, Yale University



I was trained as a Chemical Engineer (Cooper Union) and obtained a PhD in Physical Chemistry/Physics (Yale) since Biophysics did not exist as a separate field at that time. After 3 years on the Wellesley College faculty, I spent 15 years (nominally half time) 1957-1972 at Harvard Medical School. My children were born and enjoyed during those years though, when they entered school, I could spend more hours on my research on polypeptide and protein structure (early fluorescence and circular dichroism applications), in addition to teaching Biochemistry and running a 14-20 scientist lab for a professor (Elkan Blout) and, from 1969 on, serving on the Board of Tutors in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard College one evening per week.

Scientifically it was a heady time! The application of physical techniques to biological problems, the development of new instrumentation, the understanding of rules governing protein structures as well as their purification and analysis, DNA and RNA structures and the sequencing of nucleotides, as well as the exploitation of this information were all new. It was challenging and rewarding to apply the thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and biophysics I had learned to problems in an entirely new way, as well as to mentor and support outstanding students, post-doctoral and visiting scientists from many countries in my administrative role.

Professionally it was a frustrating time. Initially I was very happy – even grateful – to be able to pursue my research, to achieve results, to be valued and respected for my efforts and accomplishments by Elkan and the lab members. However the Medical School sang a different tune: I was considered ineligible for a “real” title (Lecturer but not Assistant Professor), being female, so while I wrote successful grant applications, I could not sign them. Eventually this became intolerable, my children were now 14 and 11, so I began job-hunting and was offered a position at BUSM.

The situation was so different when I came to BUSM in 1972 as Associate Professor of Biochemistry, empty handed because HMS would not allow me to take my grant (not my signature), any equipment, any data. My colleagues at BUSM offered use of their instruments, glassware, plastic ware, etc. I decided not to pursue my previous research but rather to apply biophysical approaches to study how blood cells function, an approach that had barely been tried and which involved my rapid learning about cells. Even though I had never had a course in biology or in biochemistry, I can read and think, and my training put me in the right time, so the approach worked! I got my first NIH grant in 1973, remained funded until 2010. My focus changed gradually from why HbS made cells sickle to how and why platelets are activated, how their receptors elicit signals, to what the platelet role is in Alzheimer’s Disease to an abnormality specific to platelets from AD patients (we patented it as a blood test for AD). Simultaneously we studied how phagocytic cells (neutrophils and monocytes) function normally and in some infectious diseases. In the process we developed new techniques for following multiple rapid kinetic changes in single cells multiparameter flow kinetics, designed new fluorescent probes to measure some of these changes, correlated specific receptors with the signals they elicited, changes we were able to measure continuously within 4 seconds after stimulation.

For all of these studies I was lucky to have wonderful collaborators at multiple levels: innovative faculty in the Departments of Biochemistry and Medicine (Pulmonary, Infectious Diseases, Hematology), outstanding graduate students (who often taught me rather than vice versa), excellent post-doctoral fellows, intelligent and independent technicians. Since I had had no mentoring role model(s) but would have loved one, I especially enjoyed that portion of my dealings with students, post-docs and technicians – and still do. We had a Simons Lab alumni reunion in 2009 to which about 50 of my 75 alumni came – I am so proud of all of them and of what they are accomplishing, and do hope that I played a small role in helping them to be confident, to analyze, to think logically, and to do so with integrity.

On a very different note I also became very interested in what and how medical students are taught – or not taught – i.e. in curriculum. Therefore for many years I was Assistant Director of the Office of Medical Education for the Pre-clinical years – actually the first year. Until shortly before my retirement I led one of the Integrated Problems small group (mostly the MD/PhD) discussions, a marvelous way to get the students to combine their knowledge to solve complex cases.

If I had to summarize my professional experience it would be: If you can read and think and have great co-workers you can do anything.

As to my retirement, my equipment is now with John Bernardo, a long-time collaborator, and we still have experiments we want to do, papers we need to write, but I haven’t had time. My “new” life involves taking – and sometimes leading – courses at Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, volunteering for Newton At Home (a community organization for those over 55), managing a professional chamber music group, attending many concerts. Since everything takes longer as my body ages and gets small problems, research has unfortunately not gotten the time I thought it would have. Since this is indeed a new stage of life, that’s O.K.

Elizabeth Simons PhD, August 2015 (faculty member 1972-2012)

Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students)
Boston University School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences




Platelet and the Cerebrovasculature in AB Deposition
07/10/1998 - 06/30/2002 (PI)
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke
5 R01 NS37933 03




Yr Title Project-Sub Proj Pubs
2007 Functional Studies of Granulocyte Membranes 5R01HL076463-24 3
2006 Functional Studies of Granulocyte Membranes 5R01HL076463-23 3
2005 Functional Studies of Granulocyte Membranes 5R01HL076463-22 3
2004 Functional Studies of Granulocyte Membranes 5R01HL076463-21 3
2003 Functional Studies of Granulocyte Membranes 9R01HL076463-20 3
2003 FUNCTIONAL STUDIES OF GRANULOCYTE MEMBRANES 3R01DK031056-19S1 17
2002 FUNCTIONAL STUDIES OF GRANULOCYTE MEMBRANES 5R01DK031056-19 17
2001 FUNCTIONAL STUDIES OF GRANULOCYTE MEMBRANES 5R01DK031056-18 17
2001 RESEARCH TRAINING IN BLOOD DISEASES AND RESOURCES 5T32HL007501-21 74
2000 PLATELET AND THE CEREBROVASCULATURE IN AB DEPOSITION 5R01NS037933-03 2
Showing 10 of 54 results. Show All Results
Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.

  1. Edwards ES, Gunn R, Simons ER, Carr K, Chinchilli VM, Painter G, Goldwater R. Bioavailability of epinephrine from Auvi-Q compared with EpiPen. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 Aug; 111(2):132-7. PMID: 23886232; DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2013.06.002;.
     
  2. Simons ER, Bernardo J. Multiparameter flow cytometric kinetics of phagocyte stimulus responses. Cytometry A. 2011 Jul; 79(7):493-5.View Related Profiles. PMID: 21656663; DOI: 10.1002/cyto.a.21075;.
     
  3. Bernardo J, Long HJ, Simons ER. Initial cytoplasmic and phagosomal consequences of human neutrophil exposure to Staphylococcus epidermidis. Cytometry A. 2010 Mar; 77(3):243-52.View Related Profiles. PMID: 19937952; DOI: 10.1002/cyto.a.20827;.
     
  4. Simons ER. Measurement of phagocytosis and of the phagosomal environment in polymorphonuclear phagocytes by flow cytometry. Curr Protoc Cytom. 2010 Jan; Chapter 9:Unit9.31. PMID: 20069529; PMCID: PMC2827611; DOI: 10.1002/0471142956.cy0931s51;.
     
  5. Kaur I, Simons ER, Kapadia AS, Ott CM, Pierson DL. Effect of spaceflight on ability of monocytes to respond to endotoxins of gram-negative bacteria. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2008 Oct; 15(10):1523-8. PMID: 18768671; PMCID: PMC2565938; DOI: 10.1128/CVI.00065-08;.
     
  6. Simons ER. The Blout laboratory at Harvard Medical School from 1957 to 1972. Biopolymers. 2008 May; 89(5):336-7. PMID: 18186086; DOI: 10.1002/bip.20922;.
     
  7. Herrmann JM, Bernardo J, Long HJ, Seetoo K, McMenamin ME, Batista EL, Van Dyke TE, Simons ER. Sequential chemotactic and phagocytic activation of human polymorphonuclear neutrophils. Infect Immun. 2007 Aug; 75(8):3989-98.View Related Profiles. PMID: 17526745; PMCID: PMC1952002.
     
  8. Kaur I, Simons ER, Castro VA, Ott CM, Pierson DL. Changes in monocyte functions of astronauts. Brain Behav Immun. 2005 Nov; 19(6):547-54. PMID: 15908177.
     
  9. Herrmann JM, Kantarci A, Long H, Bernardo J, Hasturk H, Wray LV, Simons ER, Van Dyke TE. Simultaneous measurements of cytoplasmic Ca2+ responses and intracellular pH in neutrophils of localized aggressive periodontitis (LAP) patients. J Leukoc Biol. 2005 Sep; 78(3):612-9.View Related Profiles. PMID: 15937144; PMCID: PMC1224730.
     
  10. Kaur I, Simons ER, Castro VA, Mark Ott C, Pierson DL. Changes in neutrophil functions in astronauts. Brain Behav Immun. 2004 Sep; 18(5):443-50. PMID: 15265537.
     
Showing 10 of 108 results. Show More

This graph shows the total number of publications by year, by first, middle/unknown, or last author.

Bar chart showing 90 publications over 29 distinct years, with a maximum of 7 publications in 1987 and 1988

YearPublications
19801
19816
19823
19834
19845
19853
19866
19877
19887
19894
19904
19913
19923
19932
19942
19952
19961
19976
19985
19992
20002
20022
20041
20052
20071
20082
20102
20111
20131
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72 E. Concord St Silvio Conte (K)
Boston MA 02118
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